Some may pursue The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award because it looks presentable on a resume, while others may do so because their parents are making them. When I began the Bronze level in grade 9, three years ago, I fit into both of these groups. Reluctantly, I agreed to participate, but at that point, I was unbeknownst to the widespread impacts the Award would have on my life; the way it would introduce me to experiences I never would have considered otherwise.
When deciding what to select for the “Skills” portion of the Award, I realized that I was not already involved in any activity that would apply. So, I enrolled myself in Bharatanatyam dance lessons, an Indian classical dance that students usually start learning at the early age of five—I was 14. But, what initially began as a requirement for the Award quickly transformed into something that has changed my life. Learning Bharatanatyam has been meaningful to me because it connects me to my culture in a deeper way. It is a form of dance that tells a story, usually surrounding Hindu mythology, conveyed by the dancer’s ever-changing facial expressions.
Bharatanatyam is also from the South of India, while my family is from the North, so learning a dance that is not from my own region allows me to look at the country more holistically and learn about all parts of its beauty. In fact, I will be graduating from the Intermediate level in June, becoming an advanced-level dancer.
The Award also shifted my experience in and perception of athletics, through both the “Physical Recreation” component and the Adventurous Journey. Stamina, athletics, outdoor activity—all of these had been significant challenges to me for as long as I could remember. While I have always excelled in academics and other extracurriculars, I never knew why the same could not be said about athletics. But, running at the gym and going on canoe and hiking trips, due to the Award, made me realize that I am capable of accomplishing things that I once found myself hiding from.
The Award threw down the gauntlet and helped me move through it. It motivated me to effectively pivot myself and change the narrative of my life ahead.